Always Throwing Away Food? You're Probably Making This Common Mistake

March 22, 2016
by Thrive Market

We created the Health Hacks on a Budget video course series to make it as easy as possible for everyone to save time and money while living a healthy life. In this series, we share simple recipes, easy tips, and educational information to help you and your family thrive.

Bad news: Americans waste tons of food—and money—every single day. Great news: You can remedy this situation and create a little more wiggle room in your busy schedule. In this video, our host Sara Snow breaks down:

  • How to plan meals for the week ahead
  • Why buy in bulk
  • How to properly store fruits, vegetables, and herbs to maintain optimal freshness and flavor
  • What expiration dates really mean

Ready to find out how you can get ahead of the curve and save a lot of time and money? Just watch and learn.

This is one video in a series that's free for all Thrive Gives recipients. See the rest of the videos here. Applying for a free membership through our Giving program is easy—just click here.

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  • Helen

    How to meal plan on a budget:

    Whole grains can be used to inexpensively provide the bulk of a person's calories at each meal. For example:
    *at breakfast, you could have oats
    *lunch: barley
    *dinner: brown rice

    If your budget allows, adding a touch of healthy fat (e.g. nuts, seeds, cooking oils) at each meal can help increase satiety, meaning that you feel fuller for longer. Using the above example again:
    *At breakfast, you could add inexpensive ground flaxseeds (AKA flax meal) to your oats, giving you oats + flax meal
    *lunch: barley + canola oil
    *dinner: rice + canola oil

    If you've still got room in your budget, you can toss in some beans and lentils for protein. You'll want to shoot for at least two daily servings of higher-protein foods. (One serving can be 1/2 cup of cooked beans, 1/4 cup of nuts, 1 cup of milk, or 4 ounces of chicken or fish, which is about the size of a deck of cards). Continuing with the previous example, we'll toss in two servings of beans and lentils, which can easily be added to lunch and dinner, thereby yielding:

    *breakfast: oats + flax
    *lunch: barley + canola oil + lentils
    *dinner: rice + canola oil + beans

    Now, after getting the bulk of your calories and some protein in, you'll want to start adding vegetables and fruits to round out the nutrition of your meals. Ideally, you'll want to shoot for at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day. (One serving of vegetables is equal to 1/2 cup unless it is a leafy vegetable, in which case one serving equals 1 cup; a serving of fruit equals one medium [i.e. baseball-sized] fruit or 1/2 cup of chopped fruit.) If you're feeling pinched at this point, starchy vegetables, such as root vegetables (e.g. sweet potatoes, parsnips) and winter squash (e.g. acorn squash, butternut squash, pumpkin), offer the most calorie-dense options with some plant color. You could also toss in a mix of broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots; or some leafy greens (e.g. spinach, kale, swiss chard) and tomatoes; whatever's on sale. For fruits, bananas, apples, and oranges are typically widely available and inexpensive, but you can pick whatever's available near you and fits your budget.

    For example:
    *breakfast: oats + flax meal + banana
    *lunch: barley + canola oil + lentils + broccoli + carrots
    *dinner: rice + canola oil + beans + corn + green bell pepper + onion

    Note: If budgeting money for fruits and vegetables is touch-and-go our even out of reach, don't despair! Even adding a few cherry tomatoes, salad greens, herbs, or strawberries grown in pots at home is better than nothing! (Did you know 90% of Americans don't eat enough fruits and veggies anyway? You can be ahead of the game even on a limited budget!)

    On the flipside, if you've still got money to blow after this, consider yourself blessed. Seriously. You can spend the extra cash on some spices that will help you to better enjoy your home cooking; choosing organic over conventional; additional fruits and vegetables; animal proteins (e.g. a glass of milk to go with that breakfast oatmeal), luxury items (e.g. teas, chocolate); or donate to a local food pantry. Hooray!

    Now, for "supply management" and meal prep: Most of your ingredients (grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, cooking oils, herbs and spices) are shelf stable and have a long enough shelf life that you don't need to worry as much about consuming them before they go bad. The daily juggling act is going to be with your perishable fruits and veggies! (And animal products, if you consume them.) Assuming you plan your meals around a base of grains, fats, and proteins as above, the fruits of vegetables you toss in to round out your meals each day should be prioritized based on what will perish first so that you don't waste food and money by throwing expired goods away. If it's on its way out, you should be eating it now or freezing or dehydrating it for later.
    And that's meal planning on a budget!